“ON EAGLES’ WINGS MINISTRIES”
“Did God Establish “A Man’s World?” Part 6. April 2010.
Throughout this series, the emphasis will be upon “woman” as she ascended to her rightful place lifted by God’s own hand from the side of her husband and given co-rulership with the “man.” We refer to man in these studies only as he impacts the role of the woman. Since Jesus solemnly affirmed that “in the beginning it was not so” we are careful to examine how it was back in a grander time. The world is full of the exploits of men, be it science, ecology, commerce and trade, medicine, space exploration, exploits into oceanography, warfare, and even genocide. From Nebuchadnezzar, to Darius the Mede, to Alexander the Great, to the succession of Emperors of Rome, to Napoleon, to Hitler, Churchill, Eisenhower and General Douglas MacArthur, our libraries are jam-packed with the exploits of men. Every so often a woman shines through and the world seems amazed that a woman has arrived; almost as if to say she had no business acquiring such status. Like I said before in a previous lesson, it seems that a woman has to be twice as good, just to break even with a man, and in most cases she still gets paid less than her male counter-part. The intent is not to be partial or bias, but since woman in our society plays the role of the “underdog” we are scanning the pages of biblical history in order to focus the spotlight upon women who were mighty instruments in God’s hands, even to the point of turning the arms of history to reflect God’s perfect will.
As we gently stroll down the corridors of Old Testament times and view the exploits of some of the women who changed the course of history by their simple acts and their daring, we now stop to take a peek at one woman of ill repute. Today, we would call her a lady of the night, or a girl from the Red Light District. We turn the spotlight on Rahab, and to get a candid picture of who she was and what she did, we must turn to the biblical narrative. “And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly, saying, Go view the land, even Jericho. And they went, and came into an harlot’s house, named Rahab, and lodged there. And the king of Jericho sent unto Rahab, saying, Bring forth the men that are come to thee, which are entered into thine house: for they be come to search out all the country. And the woman took the two men, and hid them, and said thus, There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they were. And it came to pass about the time of the shutting of the gate, when it was dark, that the men went out: whither the men went I wot not: pursue after them quickly; for ye shall overtake them. But she had brought them up to the roof of the house, and hid them with stalks of flax, which she had laid in order upon the roof.
And the men pursued after them the way of Jordan unto the fords: and as soon as they which pursued after them were gone out, they shut the gate. And before they were laid down, she came up unto them upon the roof; and she said unto the men, I know that the Lord hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the Lord, since I have shewed you kindness, that ye will also shew kindness unto my father’s house, and give me a true token. And that ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death. And the men answered her, Our life for your’s, if ye utter not this our business. And it shall be, when the Lord hath given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with thee. Then she let them down by a cord through the window: for her house was upon the town wall, and she dwelt upon the wall. And the men said unto her, We will be blameless of this thine oath which thou hast made us swear. Behold, when we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by: and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father’s household, home unto thee.
And it shall be, that whosoever shall go out of the doors of thy house into the street, his blood shall be upon his head and we will be guiltless: and whosoever shall be with thee in the house, his blood shall be on our head, if any hand be upon him.” Joshua 2;1-19. What background do we have of this woman Rahab? The first part of her name “Ra” was the name of an Egyptian god. As an Amorite, she belonged to an idolatrous people, and had a name meaning “insolence” “fierceness” or “broad” and “spaciousness.” As we just saw, she mentioned her father, her mother, her sisters and her brothers, for whom she sought an assurance of salvation from the spies. Many in religious circles as if to apologize on God’s behalf for including this wanton person in the lineage of Jesus, suggest that Rahab was not really a harlot, but rather a skillful business woman who ran a number of boarding houses mainly to cater to the needs of passing merchants. This needless apology comes out of the futile belief in pureness and holiness that mainstream Christianity seems to designate as pre-requisite to being counted worthy of divine favors. The church, seemingly, looks for “good people” and endeavors to make bad people “good”. To see God taking a woman who is called in scripture a harlot and placed her in the direct lineage of Jesus seems to suggest that we must have made a mistake in our understanding of what the Holy Writ says. But Jesus had a mixture of varied characters in his ancestry and even in his death he was crucified between two thieves. This speaks loudest that indeed, he is the Savior of all men! He identified with every fabric of the human family to lift the earthly family to the ranks of the heavenly family.
Let us listen to how the bible addressed this woman! “By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.” Hebrews 11;31. Here is another complimentary note ascribed to Rahab! “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?” James 2;24-25. Her being referred to as a harlot in no way left an indelible scar upon her character, and using the term in these New Testament scriptures merely served to identify the subject matter of the texts. It is plain to see that she was complimented and set forth as an example of faith and works blending together to produce the desired results. Rahab’s house of ill repute that entertained merchants and traders served her as a listening post. Possibly, it was from the men passing to and fro that she learned of the Israelites parting the Red Sea, and of the over throw of Sihon and Og. When the two spies came to her house, she knew they were not mere customers seeking sexual favors for the night. Quickly she observed that her city was next in line to be destroyed and she had to think fast. Her most advantageous act was to accommodate the spies and get on their good side fast. Who knows, perhaps by now, because of all the many stories she had been hearing about the God of the Hebrews, her heart had begun to warm toward a God neither she nor her people knew.
No matter how we care to judge this woman, the bible says that By faith Rahab perished not, and her actions speak volumes in so much that she ended up in the gallery of greats who, over time quenched the violence fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of aliens, obtained promises, and stopped the mouth of lions. Through faith, like that of Rahab, they subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, and did exploits. Who among us care to walk on the other side of the street from the harlot Rahab in our self righteousness? It should also be noted that Rahab was rather a self supporting woman, for the flax that she spread on her roof and the scarlet cord she used as a sign indicated that she manufactured linen and also dyed it. Obviously, she was not the type of street person who slept during the day but came alive after dark, plying her trade among travelers passing through her town. Did this woman count the cost to herself and her family before she hid the spies? What was the cost to her and her family? One writer puts it this way: “Had the spies been discovered hiding in her house, she would have died at the hands of the king of Jericho. Yet she moved with calm and met those who searched for the spies and set them on a false trail. By her act, she actually betrayed her own country, and her act was treason with death as its penalty. It was something noble for this strange woman living among an idolatrous people to look the spies in the eyes and declare, “I will not betray you. Follow me!” Yet, at the same time, she was betraying her own people and country! How gloriously daring was her faith, and how richly rewarded she was for her willingness to sacrifice her life in a cause she knew or believed to be of God! This God of the Hebrews was not known to Rahab on a personal basis. She received no teachings from Rabbis down at the synagogue. We can assume that by listening to numerous reports of the advancing Israelites, she gradually turned her heart to believing.
She no doubt became convinced that this Hebrew God is mighty and he has put the fear of his people upon all the inhabitants in the countries round about. We can never be sure of the process that molded her into a vessel of faith that secured her place among the “warriors of faith” chronicled in Hebrews 11. When we stroll down the corridors of the gallery of faith, we read; By faith Abel! By faith Enoch! By faith Noah! By faith Abraham! Through (by) faith Sara! By faith Isaac! By faith Jacob! In the end, Rahab is the only other woman of faith to be enshrined in this gallery of greats. Quite an achievement, don’t you think? Especially for a woman who was an Amorite, and one who had no connection to God through the Abrahamic Covenant! Presidents, politicians, clergymen, and motivational speakers across this nation, together, as if with a single voice, declare that in America anyone can be what he/she wants to be. It seems to me that in God anyone can be what he or she wants to be. From where we stand today, we can candidly announce this grand and glorious truth: “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is acceptable with him.” Acts 10;34-35. Isn’t it amazingly beautiful that no single race, group or creed has a monopoly with God? No one has any special deals with God. He says to anyone and everyone, give me thine heart and I will give you my Father’s kingdom! Isn’t this profound?
In a careful search of Rahab’s background and lifestyle, it can be assumed that this woman sought her own independence. She established a lifestyle that afforded her the wherewithal to live a notch above the norm of village life as it was back then. She had her own house and she traded in things that she made with her own hands. Listen to the thoughts of one writer on the subject: “How Rahab came to forsake her evil career we are not told. Like many a young girl today, perhaps she found the restrictions of her respectable home too irksome. She wanted a freer life, a life of thrill and excitement, away from the drab monotony of the home giving her birth and protection. So, high-spirited and independent she left her parents, set up own apartment with dire consequences. Today, in the politics of the Liberal left, and the Conservative right, Rahab would be judged on two different fronts. The Conservative right would accuse her of deceit, lies, and betrayal of her own country and people. The writer of the Book of Hebrews could easily have joined the gang of critics who were willing to point an accusing finger in her face. But, alas! Instead of putting her down and highlighting all of her unsavory actions, she was lifted to higher heights than many average believers have ever attained unto. We could say that she was canonized in being numbered with those who changed laws, quenched the flames of raging fires, and her action was referred to by James as a classic example of how faith and works go together. Many in the ranks of “Born again Christians” today would numerate her valiant acts as plusses and commendable, but their final assessment would end with the words; “but don’t forget that she was a harlot.” It seems to me that among New Testament writers her being a harlot had no negative impact on her story.
Paul highly commends Rahab for her energetic faith and gives her a place on the illustrious roll of the Old Testament of those who triumphed by faith. “By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she received the spies with peace.” Heb.11:31. What is so remarkable about this harlot woman is that as we know from Romans 10:17 “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Yet, this woman did not have the luxury of preachers coming to town with their big top tents, announcing the coming of God’s kingdom. She had no access to regular midweek bible studies in a selected home. Whether she actually sold sexual favors to merchants and traders passing through her village or she simply engaged others women who actually made contacts with men, she was from a people who did not know God. Picture a chicken and an eagle locked in the same cage. The chicken stayed busy scratching through the muck and slush to gather any little morsel of food, seemingly, quite at home. But in the meantime, the eagle sits on her perch always looking upward to the sky. Hungry or not, her mind is steadily fixed on getting out of captivity and soaring once again to the rocks high above earth’s lowly plains. Rahab came through like a precious gold nugget that is suddenly found among the rubbles of an old abandon mine. Her faith came by constantly listening to the stories of the approaching Israelites whose fear comes upon every tribe that stood in their path. She heard how their Hebrew God decimates all tribes as these Hebrews move forward like a rolling military Bradley vehicle. We read nowhere in scripture that Rahab solemnly fell to her knees in genuine repentance. But she heard enough by word of mouth from passersby that faith in the God of the Hebrews was kindled and along with her faith came peace. It was a peace that whispered inside of her heart, “Everything is going to be alright.” That inner peace was the propelling force that drove her into action. It’s like the tight rope walker who walked across Niagara Falls on a tight rope three times pushing a wheelbarrow. He turned to the crowd and asked if they believed he could walk across the falls a fourth time. They yelled, “Sure! Yes! You can do it a fourth time! After all, you have done it three times already! He turned to the crowd and said, “If you believe that I can indeed walk across the Falls another time, one of you come and sit in the wheelbarrow and let me push you across.” No hands went up! There were no volunteers! Go ahead! Do it! But do it without me! Rahab’s faith was not like that! She exhibited her faith by hiding the spies, by sending the king and his men on a wild goose chase, and betraying her country and people. We have a number of questions that intelligent minds would no doubt like to ask; such as: “Did this single act compensate for her sins?” “Did God turn a blind eye to what this woman really was like?” Do you remember the woman who was busy washing the feet of Jesus with her tears and wiping them with her hair? Some of those “holier than thou” religious misfits reasoned among themselves that if Jesus was really who claimed to be, he would know what sort of a woman was touching him. Listen to me my friend! Since God had already applied the remedy for all sins from before the foundation of the world in the Lamb that was slain before the world was, he has no need to ponder sin, and to deliberate in long drawn out sessions in addressing the issue. To God, the issue of sin has already been settled even before Calvary which was an outward, visible display of what was already done in Spirit.
Take the case of the woman taken in the very act of adultery! Under the law, she should die! I suppose Jesus could have said, yes, I agree, but that is not why I came to earth. He did not trounce the woman and rub her nose in her sinful act. Many of our “Big Time” preachers today would have to ask Jesus, “How could you let her off so lightly?” You did not even address her sinful act! You told her to go and sin no more, but you still haven’t dealt with her sins! I do not condemn you, go and sin no more! The case is closed as for as Jesus was concerned and as far as God was concerned! But sinners who became church members and some called pastors and even apostles today would not treat the case so lightly. I remember a case in my country village when I was in my early teens. A young woman was caught in some sort of sin involving a man. In a well attended Sunday night service, the case was publicly brought up for a trial. The pastor and the elders found the young lady guilty and in public view and before saved and unsaved alike, they read their findings and she was dismissed from the church. She walked away like a branded beast, banished from the rest of the heard. Until the day I left the village for life back in Kingston where I was born, that young lady never graced the door of a church with her presence again.
Let me make two quick points! How long does it take for God to pardon sins? God acknowledged Rahab’s faith shown by her action rather than her life style that would change in a short time after Joshua and his men came to town. One writer had this to say: “Her remarkable faith was a sanctifying faith leading her to a pure life and honorable career. As the result of her marriage to Salmon, one of the spies whom she had saved, who paid back the life he owed her by a love that was honorable and true, Rahab became an ancestress in the royal line from which Jesus came as the Savior of lost souls. Poor Rahab, the muddy, the defiled, became the fountainhead of the River of the Water of Life which floweth out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.” Her name became sanctified and ennobled, and is worthy of inclusion among many saints. It is likely that other women in Jericho saw no beauty in Rahab that they should desire her company. But through faith she became one of God’s heroines, and is included among the harlots entering into the kingdom of God before the self-righteous. Rahab’s sins had been scarlet, but the scarlet line freeing the spies and remaining as a token of her safety, typified the red blood of Jesus whereby the worst of sinners can be saved from sin and hell. Matt.21:31,32.
Here is another piece of honor based upon human ties and concerns in a heart that is upright. Rahab did not seek salvation for herself alone. It is likely that she was estranged from the rest of her family. She lived on her own and perhaps her lifestyle was abhorrent to the rest of the family. But as the door of mercy was about to close upon Jericho, Rahab, the only one standing full in the doorway to safety could not bring herself to seek mercy for herself alone. That is how salvation works! It is never just about ME! It is always about OTHERS and ME!
Rahab could have found a dozen reasons, perhaps more, why she should save herself and let all the others die. But that was not a product of her heart. My! My! I wonder how many times we have judge people wrongfully by looking on their outward appearance and actions. Perhaps the very family members for whom Rahab is about to plea for mercy were among many who had condemned her and would have had nothing to do with her. Let me ask you this! Are we ever justified in writing off folks whose lifestyle we do not approve? Are we ever justified in shunning those who we deem to be the “black sheep of the family?” Rahab had no time to think of getting even with those who had disdained her and treated her as if she had leprosy and belonged to a special colony to be with others of her kind. The moment of truth had come when the real person would come to the fore-front. Rahab had the spies to agree to save her mother, father, brethren, sisters, and all that they have. Salvation is indeed about saving others. Jesus could have come down from the tree! He could have avoided being arrested and tried and condemned! But he walked the last and final mile for others! Salvation is never about getting even for being treated wrongfully and even being deprived of that which was rightfully ours. Rahab did not seek revenge and she did not display any kind of self-centeredness. Her motive was not about self preservation. Save me, but save my mother, my father, my brothers and my sisters also. Here comes a harlot to the rescue! Life can certainly offer some dramatic turn-around of fortunes!
A woman of ill repute walks on to the stage of a royal lifeline and suddenly her sordid past no longer is an issue. We are told in stark reality that Salmon (one of the spies that Rahab hid) begat Booz. In the book of Ruth his name is spelled Boaz, not like Booz in Matthew 1:5. But the amazing thing is that one needs not search through a long list of ancestors to find Rahab’s connection to Jesus. It takes only a skip and a jump and we are there! “And Salmon begat Booz of Rahab: and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse; and Jesse begat David the king.” So from a house upon a village wall where men came and went in rapid succession a woman branded in scripture as a harlot walks into the family lineage of the Savior of the world; a place no one can deny her. Salmon produced Booz, and we are still enthralled by the story of Ruth who produced Obed of Boaz, who produced Jesse, the father of king David. From that point on we recognize Jesus as the son of David, all the way to the Book of Revelation where he is referred to as if in conclusion. “And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and loose the seals thereof.” Revelation 5:5.
Could it be that all along God had been keeping a close look on the heart of the harlot Rahab? Could it be that he saw her doing what she needed to do to eke out a livelihood for herself that could be deemed a “fight for survival?” Indeed, man looks at the outward acts and appearance, while God looks at the heart. People from different vantage points with different sets of values and religious persuasions are likely to judge Rahab in different ways. But who among us can step forward and protest the fact that this harlot woman has taken her place, one of only two slots, among the giants of faith in the gallery set forth in Hebrews 11? Who among us can say that she does not belong there? Perhaps some would love to be able to scratch her name from the list, because there are certain factions in society who thrive in delving into the past of those who have climbed to the top and stand in the limelight. Their motto? “Let us dig into their past and bring them down.”
Those who try to tie Jesus to “a pure blood line” would rather not see Rahab standing among the greats and having a blood link to our Blessed Savior. I suppose when they read how Tamar deceived her father in law into giving her twins, one of whom Jesus came through, and how Solomon the son of Bathsheba who Daivid lusted after, committed adultery with and had her husband killed in battle, these folks who seem to think that God did not use his best judgment would no doubt like to rewrite biblical history. When we read the lineage of Jesus and closely observe the different background and different lifestyle of the people counted in the lineup, we must walk away wityh the understanding that God maybe went to great length to select people and circumstances that our “holy people” would not approve of. How could God select for the birth of his best, his only begotten Son, from prostitutes, incest, adultery and murder, lies and deceit, as in the case of Jacob deceiving his father, lying and becoming a fugitive. My Friend, of late I am seeing a bigger truth in the saying that “He came to his own, and his own received him not.” For years I believed and taught that this meant that he came to the Jews. But as I look more closely at the lineage of Jesus and observe the diverse collection of people, I realize that mankind in general from every status and background played a role in the Savior’s makeup. He is indeed the Savior of the world for the world was in him from the beginning. We all were created in him before the foundation of the world, including the harlot Rahab now lifted up and placed among the greats in the bible’s faith gallery by turning her faith into action, thus saving herself and her entire family.
Royce O. Kennedy